Although a selection of your donor needs some careful thought please be aware that just because a particular characteristic is chosen, there are no guarantees that your child will be born with the same characteristic. However, the information below is aimed at helping you to come to a decision.
How do I choose my sperm donor?
So you’ve made it through all the investigations, had your counselling – now its time to choose the person who will be the genetic parent of your child. For many this can feel overwhelming and a little scary, and we understand that. We will do all we can to guide you through what can for some feel like a pretty momentous decision.
Where do I start?
Some clinics publish “catalogues” of sperm donors, but here at NUH Life we take a more personalised route to finding you a donor. We build great relationships with the men who donate at our unit, and feel that this gives us far more insight into who they are as people than could be described in a catalogue!
We ask all of our recipients to start out by telling us what their ideal basic donor characteristics are, firstly in terms of their physical characteristics (height, hair and eye colour), and then any traits or talents you may like (eg sporty, or artisitic, or academic for example). These details are given to the donor coordinator who will then be able to select potential matches from the available donors.
We ask you these things to help give the donor coordinator a sense of the kind of things that are important to you – but we can’t necessarily match all of them! It’s really important to keep a sense of perspective about your choice and remember that whilst someone may appear “perfect” on paper and meet all your requirements, it is not just our genes that make us the people we are. Experiences and opportunities also play a key role in developing personality and talents.
How many donors do I get to choose from?
We aim to offer you 2-3 suitable donor matches to choose from initially and these will be the ones we feel are the best match based on what you have told us about your preferences, and our knowledge of the donors. Experience has shown us that offering everything available all at once can be just too overwhelming and recipients find it more difficult to make their choice. However we are always happy to offer more donors if these prove unsuitable, depending on donor availability.
You should bear in mind that the more flexible you are in your requirements the more choice you will have!
How do you check my donor is healthy?
We know that having a healthy donor is really important to recipients. Our donors undertake a series of blood, urine and basic genetic tests to ensure that they are fit, healthy and free from infection. However – you do need to understand that nothing is risk free and we cannot possibly screen out every potential condition or carrier status. There may be conditions that we cannot test for, or don’t yet know even exist!
So our aim is to reduce risks as far as possible, and we do this by carefully going through a donors own medical history, and that of their close genetic relations, looking for any indication of conditions or diseases that may be inheritable (ie passed on through the family line).
Even though genetic screening is a rapidly developing and expanding area and it is becoming possible to screen for a myriad of things, there are still many unknowns. Most common health problems are multifactorial, and a result of our genes interacting with the environment to cause disease. We all carry gene mutations in our DNA – but very few cause ill health.
However we know that chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, mental illness and certain cancers often have a familial component. In families where multiple closely-related biological family members have the same condition, there may be an increased risk for others to develop the same disease, and potential donors with any such “red flags” in their history would be rejected.
What is CMV?
CMV is Cytomegalovirus, and we screen both our donors and recipients for their “CMV Status”.
We always aim to match CMV negative recipients to a CMV negative donor, but on occasion we may consider the use of a CMV positive donor.
You can find more information about CMV here.
Can I use the same donor to have siblings?
Once you are pregnant, you may like to consider reserving additional samples for future use so you can extend your family.
We usually advise that you instigate the reservation once you have had your 20 week ultrasound scan. All requests to reserve samples for sibling treatment should be directed to the donor coordinator who will check the availability of stock and send you the reservation paperwork for completion, along with the terms and conditions of reservation. There is an annual reservation fee payable to hold the samples for your exclusive use.
If any donors who are unlikely to have sufficient stock available for reservation are offered to you during the matching process, we will highlight this to you so you are fully aware. However, we cannot guarantee sibling stocks will be available for any donor until stocks have been checked and a formal reservation agreement is in place.
I’ve chosen my donor – now what?!
Once a donor has been chosen, a treatment slot is allocated to you. We set aside enough samples for you to have a minimum of 3 treatment cycles with your donor.
We do ask that once you have been allocated a donor, you start a treatment cycle within 3 months. If you have not attempted any treatment in this timeframe, the donor allocation will be removed and you would be placed back on a waiting list until you are actually ready to start treatment. We cannot guarantee that the donor you originally chose will still be available.
In order to start a treatment cycle you must contact the Fertility Outpatient team on 0115 9709238 on day one of your menstrual cycle to book in (ie the day you start bleeding). If this falls on a Saturday or Sunday you should contact the clinic first thing on a Monday. The nursing staff will be able to guide you through the cycle protocol and tell you when scans will be needed, and if/when any medication should be taken. It’s a good idea to speak to the clinic staff prior to starting treatment to ensure you know what will happen and when. You will have received a patient information booklet when you first attended the clinic and this contains more information about what treatment involves. Feel free to download the booklet here.
What do donors give consent to?
All donors are required by UK law to give written consent to the storage and use of their sperm. Current legislation permits donors to consent to a maximum of 10 years storage. They can also consent to the storage and use of any embryo’s created using their sperm, again for 10 years. Once this period has expired, sperm and embryos have to be removed from storage and destroyed.
If a potential donor match is nearing the end of their 10 year consent period you will be informed of this prior to choosing them, as we know many recipients are keen to have further children using the same sperm donor, and a short remaining consent period could prevent this.
Can my donor withdraw from the donation programme?
All recipients must be aware that donors have the legal right to withdraw consent to storage and use at any time. This means that there is a potential for you to have chosen a donor and then for it to be withdrawn from use prior to your treatment. There is also the possibility that having had one child using a donor, your donor could then withdraw consent to use which would prevent you from using the same donor to have a full genetically related sibling, even if you have a formal reservation agreement in place.
This is an extremely rare occurrence, but it is something you should be aware of prior to choosing a donor.